Title: Becoming Nobody: A Personal Account of One Man’s Search for Self-Knowledge
Author: Rick Branch
Genre: Memoir / Philosophy / Psychology
Society encourages people to be somebody, that their identity is attached to accomplishments like graduating college and being financially wealthy. To know oneself and identify through likes, dislikes, and characteristics (that are not necessarily unique or individual, but that are imposed on people from social structures and upbringings) is considered self-discovery. In Becoming Nobody, Branch counters those avenues to self-awareness by detailing his own journey by subtraction of those mental constraints. He theorizes that piling on experiences to an identity narrows one’s mind, thus blockading their true self-discovery. Instead, he believes that peeling away your instinctual notions and cross-examining oneself contributes more to their self-knowledge.
Branch bases many of his ideas on his personal experiences and the written works of several philosophers. His concepts are clearly organized, and he offers simple changes to a person’s natural thought processes, which allows readers to understand his points and apply them to their own journey to self-knowledge. The chapters do not meander through tangential anecdotes (which many philosophical self-help books tend to do), which helps to keep the reader engaged. However, they are very short, and rely heavily on the ideas and published works of other philosophers. Readers may get the impression that the book is a discussion of their theories instead of the author’s original philosophies and journey to self-awareness.
The email exchanges between Branch and his friend, Ana, backs up his theories the best. Their conversational tone in the emails will connect readers to the subject matter in the chapter, which may feel like a reprieve from other chapters that can read more scholarly. Those chapters may be a little harder to follow if a reader is not well-versed in the field of philosophy or psychology, or if they are not familiar with the works of the philosophers that Branch frequently quotes and mentions. Branch’s emails with Ana bridge the gaps between reader and the information in those chapters effortlessly and offers readers a personal connection to his concepts.
Branch relays many of his own moments of enlightenment to support his ideas. One of the most interesting anecdotes is the conversation he had with his twin brother, who happened to be under the influence of LSD, about social customs and their effects on the human psyche. That “trippy” conversation shaped Branch’s outlook on what he should expect from his life and solidified after years of studying the philosophies of self-knowledge and awareness. Some of Branch’s other examples of personal growth could have been as powerful as this one if they had been fleshed out more. A few of them are vague, however, and can cause the reader to wonder about their relationship to the topic at hand.
Read Becoming Nobody if you want an original perspective on self-awareness and identity. This book will teach readers to dissect themselves in unexpected ways in order to truly know who they are as individual humans. It will expose them to thoughtful ways of analyzing their interpretation of self, who they truly are versus who society has programmed them to think they are.
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